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Britain's most advanced attack sub ever on sea trials


March 25, 2010

Astute class submarine on sea trials

Astute class submarine on sea trials

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Known as Turtle, the world's first military submarine appeared during the American War of Independence. It was 10 feet long, constructed of two wooden shells covered with tar, propelled by a one-person crew using hand-cranked propellers, had enough air for a 30 minute dive and its weapons were a drill, a keg of gunpowder and a time fuse. Fast forward 230-odd years to the British Navy's Astute class submarine, which is currently undergoing sea trials, and you get a very different picture. Made up of a million individual components and capable of carrying 93 crew and an array of weapons including Tomahawk cruise missiles, the nuclear-powered Astute class is 97m long, weighs 7,800 tons, is coated in 39,000 sonar masking acoustic tiles and doesn't need refueling throughout its expected 25 year service life.

The first of the BAE Systems built Astute Class subs (called Astute, with the three further vessels under construction called Ambush and Artful and Audacious) joined the Royal Navy’s second Type 45 destroyer Dauntless in the firth of Clyde for trials this week.

The attack submarine is designed to cover several bases, from anti-ship and anti-submarine operations to surveillance and intelligence gathering and support for land forces. It has a 50% greater weapons load than Trafalgar (S&T;) Class in service at present, is stealthier than any other submarine previously operated by the Royal Navy and packs in a staggering amount of technology. This includes the the world's most advanced attack sonar suite - Sonar 2076 - that has the processing power of 200,000 laptop computers and can detect ships on the opposite side of the Atlantic. A sophisticated digital optical mast provides 360 degree infra-red and thermal imaging and replaces the traditional periscope and all-in-all, BAE Systems says five million lines of software code have been written to control of the vessels complex systems and 100 km of cable run through its hull - a process made easier by a modular construction system.

The Astute travels at 30 knots underwater and will soon attempt to dive to it's maximum depth of 300 meters as part of the current trials. Although it has enough power to last 25 years, the patrol endurance is slated at 90 days... and we still don't envy the submariners on that stretch. The sea-to-land Tomahawk cruise missiles can be delivered with accuracy over a 2,000 km range and Speafish Torpedoes also form part of the Astute's arsenal.

Three Astute Class subs have been officially ordered by the Royal Navy and a fourth is well underway. The program, which began in 1997, is not alone in having suffered lengthy delays, and doubts have been expressed whether the seven submarines BAE hopes to build will eventuate - something to do with the GFC and a £1.2 billion price tag apparently.

BAE Systems via Daily Mail.

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007. All articles by Noel McKeegan

So we´re still inventing variations of battle-axes and attack-spears... a sad reminder of how little humanity has evolved with respect to aggression-control. Just imagine what the 1.2 billion pounds could have been used for in cleaning up our planet or dragging Africa out of poverty or simply trying to live peacefully...


All this has been going on under a Labour government. It must be costing billions. Who are we protecting ourselves against? Iran? Suicide bombers?


You two just don\'t get it. Freedom isn\'t free. Have either of you ever even considered serving your country to protect it, your family, friends...freedom? Doubt it.


Yes Kingofthings, I´ve served and nearly died for it. And during the trip back to life had plenty of time to think over the fact that the idea that freedom has to be fought for is a fallacy which is rooted in our history. The intelligent solution to this whole story is simple. Accept the fact that we´re all together on this one planet and that cooperation is the only way to go to survive. See your fellow human beings as potential friends and leave the battles to the chaps playing football or paintball. War is absolutely the worst invention ever and if you have ever been close to it, you will know what I mean. Anyone´s peace or freedom which needs the death of a fellow human being to exist is fundametally wrong. Like the existence of weaponry to attain such freedom is a fundamental flaw of our society.


Sure Bas, I\'m happy to go with your idea. Pity the other chap isn\'t. That will lead to peace though I must admit, when they wipe us out. Turn the other cheek and all... pity I\'ll only get to turn it once.

Craig Jennings

Hey guise,

Well i think we are a wee bit off from having the intellectual reasoning capacity to override our basic, primal reactions to aggression. Until our knee jerk, primal reaction is re-wired to clear methodical reasoning we will not escape the violence that purveys our species. Yes, war is bad. Yes violence is bad. Until we progress as a species and enable ourselves to overcome our differences without the reactive, prejudiced aggression thats so deeply ingrained into our primitive un-evolved psyche we will face war after war and societal control after societal control intended to protect us from ourselves. Freedom IS free if you have a population capable of understanding themselves as evolved, self aware and sentient beings, because then humanity would be united under a common goal - to progress our science, technology and society to better serve our human needs together as a species.

Facebook User

If no one is willing to fight for freedom, all it takes is one would be master to enslave the world.


I am not convinced at all that the 25 year no refuelling reactor is in reality a good idea.

In fact, the current tendancy for military hardware is to use them the longer possible and warships are used 30 years to even 40 years ... Thus a refurbishement to extend the submarine life after25 years will be probable. At this point having a non refuel designed reactor will be a great issue meaning the submarine hull will have to be cut to change the reactor or change the fuel ... thus the life extension will be very expensive.

Moreover, most warship and submarine have a mid-life upgrade meaning a long stopping period at mid-life to incorporate new technologies and change materials that can endure 30 years of use. This upgrade usually means 6 month or one year of work. Thus, changing the fuel during this upgrade is not so inconvenient.

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